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Patriots.com News Blitz - 4/5/2012

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ESPNBoston.com reports that Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has advanced to the "Final 8" of the Madden 13 cover vote.  Gronkowski beat out Vikings' DE Jared Allen in the second round of the bracket-style tournement that will determine who appears on the cover of the popular video game.  Next up for Gronk -- Lions' WR Calvin Johnson.  Vote here

Karen Guregian of The Boston Herald writes that free-agent DE Luis Castillo has opted to remain with the San Diego Chargers.  Castillo visited the Patriots a few weeks ago, and many believed that New England would be able to reel in the 6-3, 290 pound defensive end given the fact that he could play both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.  "So if the the team wants to continue to bloster the front line, there's still the draft, and a few free agents out there who might help, maybe London Fletcher and of course, Andre Carter," writes Guregian.

Karen Guregian also writes that the Patriots have opted against tendering restricted free-agent DB Bret Lockett.  Now an unrestricted free-agent, the Patriots can still match Lockett's highest offer, although he does not need to accept and is free to play wherever he chooses.  "Lockett hasn't been able to stay healthy since joining the team in 2009.  Lockett played in 10 games, recording 7 tackles and one forced fumble, before being placed on injured reserve in December that year," writes Guregian.

Nick Underhill of Masslive.com takes a detailed look at the Patriots' draft-day tendencies under Bill Belichick.  Underhill notes that the Patriots have technically moved up in the same draft more times than they have traded down under Bill Belichick. 

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes that draft prospect Whitney Mercilus could add a valuable pass-rushing dynamic to the Patriots defense.  Mercilus had an outstanding junior season for Illinois last year, posting 16 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 57 total tackles.  "Mercilus fits an obvious need, regardless of whether or not Andre Carter returns. The Illinois product has a merciless (bad pun intended) drive to get to the quarterback, and he could fill Mark Anderson's role as a situational pass rusher. And since Mercilus has only been a full-time player for one season, it's only natural to think he'll keep developing as a player," writes Howe. 

CSNNE.com writes that although Patriots free-agent C Dan Koppen had a good visit with the Titans this week, no deal is imminent and both sides will weighing options, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. "One has to imagine, considering the re-signing of Dan Connolly, a deal will get done outside of New England -- whether in Tennessee or elsewhere," writes the CSNNE staff.  

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